3, 2, 1, Champions!
October 27, 2019
AURORA – 14 seeds aren’t supposed to win championships. Even more so, they aren’t supposed to beat the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st seeds to do so.
Erie Softball didn’t really care what they were supposed to do.
The Tigers rallied to knock off 3rd seeded Pueblo South 18-14 in chaotic fashion before getting their most, and possibly only, comfortable win of the tournament with a 10-4 win over D’Evelyn.
They headed into the second day with a showdown against conference foe and 2nd seeded Holy Family looming large. The Tigers from the south already had two wins over Erie in the regular season, by scores of 10-7 and 7-3.
But in softball, it is extremely difficult to beat a team three times, especially so when both teams are very good.
That was certainly the case for Erie, as they battled to a 9-5 victory in the semifinals. And for the second year in a row, Erie is 1-2 against Holy Family in softball, except this year, they got the one win when it counted most, and returned the elimination favor after Holy Family sent them home disappointed a year ago.
Just before Erie won their semifinal, Golden claimed a 9-1 win over Silver Creek to set the stage of the title game.
The two teams had never played before the state championship game, per MaxPreps.
The game didn’t begin on the right foot for Erie, as Golden senior Kenzie Middleton sent one out to dead center in the first at-bat of the game.
Erie recovered, and got out of the inning with no more damage done.
They then racked up five runs in the top of the second. Kaylee Armstrong started off the scoring outburst with a two run blast to left field that scored Jai Hernandez. Jen Williams, Lauren Russell, and Mady Vaughan hit three straight RBI singles to bat around in the inning and give Erie a 5-1 lead.
However, Golden wasn’t done, as they would tie the game at 6 after an Emma Osborne sac fly.
Armstrong and Osborne would both get doubles in the top of the sixth to give Erie a one run lead, but it wouldn’t last.
A throwing error from Vaughan allowed the tying run to score in the bottom of the seventh. Alyssa Barnett, who came in relief of Megan Loveland (who had thrown over 400 pitches throughout the weekend, 189 on Saturday, and 97 in the game) in the sixth, then intentionally walked Mikayla Middleton to load the bases with one out.
Both Middleton’s were intentionally walked multiple times, much to the displeasure of the Golden parents. “You shouldn’t be allowed to intentionally walk someone in the state championship” complained one Golden parent. “That’s not fair.”
Barnett squeaked out of the bases-loaded jam with the winning run on third when she got Makenzie Middleton to ground out to who else but Vaughan, who flipped it to third to send the game to extra innings. “I wanted the ball to go to (Vaughan) to get the last out (of the inning)” said Barnett.
Jen Williams singled to begin the top of the 8th, and was bunted to second base by Russell. Vaughan came up to the plate, and on the second pitch she saw, she sent one out of the park to left to give Erie an 11-9 lead.
After Paige Gilbert singled, Armstrong hit her second two-run home run of the day to give Erie a four run lead – just like in the Pueblo South game. “I just wanted to keep the inning going,” said Armstrong with a smile afterwards.
Barnett came back to the circle for the bottom of the eighth, and after getting two singles and two outs, struck out the final batter to deliver Erie their first softball state championship in nine years. “I’ve had a feeling that all week we were going all the way,” said Barnett.
Erie wasn’t supposed to be the first 14 seed to ever win the state title. That didn’t matter, as their near-unstoppable offense and clutch pitching did so anyway. And, as Mady Vaughan put it, “We knew how to fight. That was the most important part. We knew how to fight.”
And that feeling that Barnett had? It was right on.
You can watch the archived live stream of the game HERE.